I am grateful to have a vote in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 poll. I will publish my Top 25 every week for everyone to see, and I’m sure rationally discuss with a clear lens.
25. NC Central
22. Austin Peay
20. Northern Iowa
18. Southeastern Louisiana
17. Jacksonville State
15. Central Arkansas
14. Missouri State
13. Eastern Washington
11. UC Davis
9. North Dakota
8. Montana State
7. Weber State
6. Southern Illinois
5. North Dakota State
4. James Madison
2. Sam Houston
1. South Dakota State
The Top 13 teams ended up staying the same for me as last week’s ballot.
You can arrange the top five however you want and I wouldn’t argue against it.
SDSU, SHSU, Montana, JMU, and NDSU all look like teams capable of winning a national title. And Tier 2 (teams 6-15 in my opinion) are teams that are good enough to make the quarterfinals and give Tier 1 squads a good game. So I think we’re in store for a great playoff bracket (yes, I know it’s only Week 3 now) instead of just penciling in NDSU and JMU to meet up in Frisco like in past years.
The biggest jump in my ranking is Jacksonville State going from being unranked to No. 17. JSU’s win at Florida State was incredible and perhaps what the program needs to get stuck out of the mud it’s been in nationally since reaching the title game in the 2015 season. But I’m not ready to slide JSU way up in my ballot yet. The Gamecocks getting hammered by a good UAB team and then beating P5 Florida State is exactly the type of inconsistency that makes it impossible to know if JSU is a playoff team, a quarterfinal team, or a team that can play a football game in January.
Another big jump is Missouri State going from No. 20 to No. 14 after beating ranked Central Arkansas. Mo State’s improved roster talent (thanks to many FBS transfers) is so apparent now compared to 2019.
Monmouth dropped a couple of spots despite winning. After thinking the Hawks could be a sleeper team in the FCS, they did not compete well at all against FBS Middle Tennessee (losing 50-15) in a Week 1 game I straight-up thought they would win. And narrowly beating an OK Fordham team 26-23 this weekend doesn’t inspire much confidence that Monmouth can threaten the top of the FCS. Plenty of season left, though.
VMI and Austin Peay dropped some spots after blowout FBS losses. That has less to do with the losses and more to do with being impressed with teams like Southeastern Louisiana, Villanova, and Northern Iowa.
Which leads me to my next point…
I reevaluate my entire Top 25 and its order every week. Teams 1-8 or 15-19 can all win and that doesn’t mean I’m going to keep it in that order. I’ll reevaluate things and say “you know what, I actually think team 19 is better than teams 15-18 despite them all winning.”
Everyone has a different formula for how they want to order their ballot. I try not to make it too difficult.
Who is my national title favorite? That’s my No. 1. Who will they beat in Frisco? That’s No. 2. Who would lose to those two teams on a neutral field but beat everyone else in the country? That’s No. 3. Same for No. 4 and No. 5. Who would lose to the Top 10 teams I have ordered but would beat everyone else in my pool of potentially-ranked teams? That’s No. 11. Etc. etc. etc.
A 4-0 team isn’t necessarily better than a 2-2 team, just like a 4.0 GPA general studies student isn’t necessarily smarter than a 3.7 GPA pharmacy student.
Ordering your Top 25 this way can sometimes lead to inconsistent movement week-to-week, like not dropping a team any spots after a big FBS loss one week and then the next week dropping a different team a couple of spots after an FBS loss. But I also think it’s good to reevaluate your order every week and not get stuck in the “I need to keep Team A ahead of Team B because that’s how I had it last week and they both had the same results” mindset. The more games you watch, the better grasp you get of how programs across the country stack up against each other. So an evolving opinion doesn’t always result in consistent shuffling of one’s order.
Because most voters probably look at their submitted ballot a few days later and can even disagree with themselves, saying “I probably should’ve had this team ahead of this one” or “I probably should have this team higher on second thought.”